By act of the US Congress on July 9th 1918, the Silver Star Medal was instituted as "Citation Star". The decoration then was not more than a small silver star that could be worn on the ribbon of any campaign decoration. The Congress decided in 1932 that a star could be awarded for actions dating back to the Spanish-American war in 1898. The decoration was then given a new name as Silver Star Medal and was newly designed. The original "Citation Star" was placed in the middle of the new design. The designer of the new Silver Star Medal was Rudolf Freund of "Bailey, Banks and Biddle".
On August 7th, 1942, the American Congress decided that the Silver Star Medal also could be given to civilians.
The decoration comes in the form of a gold coloured star, with in the central part a laurel wreath. In the middle of this one can find the smaller Silver Star from the "Citation Star". On the reverse, the medal bears the words "FOR GALLANTRY IN ACTION".
The first real Silver Star Medal was awarded to General Douglas Mac Arthur in August 1932. He received it with six times the Oak Leaves, which means he received the Silver Star Medal seven times at once.
The Ribbon is white and has two blue stripes near the sides and a red stripe over the middle.
The decoration could be awarded to a person who, while serving in any capacity with the US Army, is cited for gallantry in action against an enemy of the United States while engaged in military operations involving conflict with an opposing foreign force, or while serving with friendly foreign forces engaged in armed conflict against an opposing armed force in which the United States is not a belligerent party. The required gallantry, while a lesser degree than that required for award of the Distinguished Service Cross, must nevertheless have been performed with marked distinction.
Only for the first time the Silver Star Medal is being awarded, the recipient really received the medal. Within the US Army and the US Army Air Force/US Air Force, a Bronze Oak Leave was received for every further Silver Star Medal. The Oak Leave was to be worn on the ribbon of the first Silver Star Medal. Within the US Navy, US Marines Corps and the US Coast Guard, a Golden Star was received.
For every fifth Bronze Oak Leave or Golden Star a Silver Oak Leave or Silver Star was received.